You heard me right. NASA, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, is teaming up with Wisdom Tools, Project Whitecard, and Virtual Heroes, the guys behind America’s Army (the official Army MMO).
Now, I know what you’re thinking. NASA, making an MMO. This may be the most unholy alliance in the history of science. It will be an abomination, and must be purged from this earth. Also, it is quite a silly idea. You may also equate this unusual cross of science and gaming to be somewhat akin to crossing literature with a banana. It simply does not make sense.
I know this because that is exactly what I thought upon hearing this outrageous news. However, upon further thought, I realized that this has the potential to be freaking awesome. It’s like if Carl Sagan worked for Blizzard, or Stephan Hawking decided to fact check Mass Effect’s science… or if EVE Online were any good. Sadly, none of these things have ever occurred, so my PC has felt the severe lack of any realistic space simulator.
This game, if done right, could bridge two aspects of my life I never thought would cross. I can now geek out over space stuff while I geek out over a new game. I will become so geeky, I might as well buy a pocket protector, thick-rimmed glasses, and learn Vector Calculus. In fact, the MMO, titled Astronaut: Mars, Moon, and Beyond, might actually be able to help me out with that last bit.
Okay, it’s not going to teach me Vector Calculus, but one of the goals of the game is to promote careers in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In fact, according to 1up.com, “NASA intends to allow it to actually offer course accreditation to players.” So essentially, the game allows you to play around with different NASA related career paths, and can even get you started on those career paths by offering college credit. College credit for playing a video game.
As to the game itself, it will be set in 2035, when NASA believes that humans will be exploring and settling other planets. Judging by the screen shots, the player will be put in the shoes of an Astronaut, free to explore several heavenly bodies. And you can stop your heavy breathing, because I was talking about planets, not sexy space chicks (although if NASA is predicting scantily-clad humanoid female aliens, sign me up for space camp under the name “James T. Kirk”).
No real word on the release, other then a vague early 2010 date. We also know that the game is being developed using the Unreal Engine. Check out the screen shots below.